Freddy’s Revenge: Gay Masterpiece or Homophobic Nightmare On Elm Street?

Summer is over. Temperatures are falling. The leaves are changing color. Pumpkin spice cold brews are flowing. You know what that means: it’s Spoopy Season! (Side note: Who coined that term? It sounds like a hate crime in itself.)

Gays love this time of year for many reasons. Layering comes back into style. Drinking around a bonfire is always a great pastime. And Halloween is the perfect opportunity to let your inner drag persona run free. The season also brings with it many a night enjoying a good old-fashioned horror movie.

There’s no concrete reason for it but queers do love watching slasher flicks. Maybe it’s because we like to see dumb sluts and boorish jock types who used to use us as punchlines and targets die unnatural deaths. Maybe it’s because we can identify with and are inspired by the strong female types who live to see the final credits. Whatever it is, we can’t get enough of them.

Whenever gayness and horror movies are discussed, one movie almost always comes up: A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge. This movie has undeniable homoerotic themes. I, myself, love horror films (my name is Jason, after all) but I admit that I only watched this movie for the first time not too long ago. I was astounded by all the queer imagery in a movie made in 1985. I couldn’t believe that such a queer movie spawned another sequel in a rather non-progressive time. After watching it for a second time with a more critical eye though, I’m surprised this movie wasn’t called A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Gay Panic.

Warning: There will be spoilers ahead, but this movie is 35 years old so deal with it.

What’s not to love about Freddy Krueger? He’s creative. He’s got his own sense of style. He’s witty. I mean, the man can throw some shade. He also kills anyone that gets in his way. It’s not hard to see why gays can identify with the man. I feel though that the film makers of Freddy’s Revenge saw him as queer and not in a good way.

A bit of backstory: Freddy Krueger was described as a child murderer in the original A Nightmare On Elm Street. According to Screams and Nightmares: The Films of Wes Craven by Brian Robb though, the creator of Freddy originally wanted him to be a child molester, the “worst thing” Craven could think of.1 Everyone knows people conflated pedophilia and homosexuality for many years, even now. That is how I believe this screenplay was born.

As Freddy’s Revenge begins, we are introduced to Jesse, a seemingly awkward teenager on a school bus. He rides home with his raucous schoolmates, trying to mind his own business. After some time, Jesse is left alone on the bus with just two girls who then make fun of poor little Jesse. The bus driver then chooses to speed past the girls’ stop and drives straight into the desert.

Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, New Line Cinema 1985

The sky darkens. Lightning flashes. The earth opens, leaving the bus dangling precariously on two tall rock piles. It is revealed that the bus driver is none other than Freddy Krueger. He stalks to the back of the bus where the girls huddle together in front of Jesse, screaming for their lives. Freddy raises his trademark glove with blades and brings it down to slash and then …we see a tomato being sliced in a kitchen and hear Jesse screaming in another room. Yes, it was an actual nightmare.

I believe that there was more to that nightmare than meets the eye though. Freddy didn’t reveal his true self until after Jesse was taunted by those girls. It was as if he wanted to punish the girls for teasing Jesse. He was there to protect Jesse. He let Jesse survive that episode. It seemed like an attempt to gain Jesse’s trust in some sick and twisted way.

Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, New Line Cinema 1985

As the movie progresses, Jesse is presented more and more in a way that could attract gay men to him. He is shown in various forms of undress and dripping wet no less than seven times. Within the first ten minutes, he is “pantsed” in broad daylight during his gym class, revealing his bare jock strapped ass and wrestled to the ground by another attractive man. His parents just don’t seem to get him and ignore his literal cries for help.

Finally, Jesse’s closest relationships are with the same attractive guy who wrestled him to the ground, Grady, and a nice young lady named Lisa who seems to be attracted to him but despite her many efforts, just can’t seem to get to a more intimate level with him. Sound familiar?

Meanwhile, Freddy keeps pursuing Jesse. He keeps appearing in Jesse’s nightmares. He reveals that he needs Jesse to kill for him and that “Daddy can’t help you now”. Once Freddy gets his metaphoric claws into Jesse’s mind, he leaves his clawed glove in Jesse’s care. Freddy could be seen as a predatory “daddy-type” gay man who is grooming his twink boy-toy to serve his dirty needs.

If you think I might be reaching a bit for these queer themes, try this on for size. Jesse and his enemy-turned-BFF Grady are disciplined by their gym teacher, Coach Schneider, for their scuffle early in the movie. They are forced to hold the plank position for a very long time because as Grady puts it, that’s how the gym teacher “gets his rocks off.” “He hangs around queer S&M joints downtown. He likes pretty boys.”

Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, New Line Cinema 1985

Sometime later, Freddy somehow lures Jesse to one of those queer S&M joints in the middle of the night where, of course, he runs into a harness-clad Coach Schneider. True to form, Schneider takes pretty boy Jesse to the school gym to punish him some more with some laps. Afterwards, he sends Jesse to the showers and Freddy appears. Freddy attacks the gym teacher with literal balls, strings him up with jump ropes, drags him into the shower, strips him naked, whips him with a towel and then slashes him. It all looks like a scene from Kink.com. I’m not reaching.

In fact, according to the Buzzfeed article “The Nightmare Behind The Gayest Horror Film Ever Made” (Louis Peitzman), not long after its release, Freddy’s Revenge was dubbed “the gayest horror film ever made” in a publication. For years, the filmmakers denied any of the queer undertones were intentional, but screenwriter David Chaskin has since changed his tune. He has since admitted that he intentionally wrote in the attitudes of the day about homosexuality.

Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, New Line Cinema 1985

“Homophobia was skyrocketing and I began to think about our core audience – adolescent boys – and how all of this stuff might be trickling down into their psyches at an age when raging hormones often produce dreams and urges that make them (if only unconsciously) begin to question their own sexuality. My thought was that tapping into that angst would give an extra edge to the horror.”2

Mission accomplished. There are more cautionary tales against being gay in the movie. First, the only people who die in this movie are men. You read that right.

Another example is when Jesse has a make out moment with Lisa but it turns his tongue. Seriously. It’s not subtle. He then runs to Grady’s house and sneaks into his bedroom for companionship and help. Freddy doesn’t like this and emerges from Jesse’s body to kill Grady. Lesson? Run away from a female and seek out a man’s company and you end up killing that man. Later, Freddy possesses Jesse’s body and escapes to his safe place, the boiler of the factory where he used to work. Lisa arrives to try to save Jesse. She confronts Freddy, admits to Jesse’s spirit inside of Freddy that she loves him and then kisses Freddy. Freddy bursts into flames and dies. Jesse’s only hope it to be saved by heterosexual love.

Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, New Line Cinema 1985

I laughed a lot the first time I watched this movie. The second time though, not so much. I was very troubled with the homophobic imagery and undertones that permeated the film from start to finish.

I’m not the only one who felt ill effects from Freddy’s Revenge. Mark Patton, the actor who played Jesse, was traumatized not only by the filming of the movie but also  by its reception.

Patton who is actually gay was closeted at the time. He felt mistreated by the director and blamed for the film’s gay undertones. He was scared even further into the closet and left the film industry altogether, becoming an interior decorator. You can find out more about Patton’s experience with this film and his life afterward in the documentary Scream Queen!: My Nightmare On Elm Street, currently available on Shudder.

The LGBTQIA+ community deals with enough homophobia in the world. We shouldn’t have to find it in our guilty pleasures. Those should be an escape from the horror movie that we call the real world currently. We all need a bit of fantasy in our lives.

My advice: grab a pumpkin beer, light a fall scented candle and watch The Babadook (one of our newest gay horror icons) or The Rocky Horror Picture Show instead of this nightmare.

[1] Robb, Brian(2000). Screams and Nightmares: The Films of Wes Craven. New York City: Overlook TP. ISBN 1-58567-090-1.

[2] Peitzman, Louis(February 21, 2016). “The Nightmare Behind The Gayest Horror Film Ever Made“. BuzzFeed. Archived from the original on February 22, 2016

Jason Shavers is a born and raised Pittsburgh native. He is an actor that has worked extensively on stage and not so extensively on screen. Jason is also a self proclaimed expert on RuPaul’s Drag Race, Musical Theater and sitcoms that feature 4 women leads. Yeah, he’s gay AF. Follow him on Instagram. (He / Him / His)